Greens in government?

Life working for the Green Party in Scotland

Green politics in Scotland have come a long way in the last ten years - then, we had no-one elected to anything, and now we’re going into today's election holding 7 seats out of 129.

The group we got elected last time have proved themselves very capable, even though four
years ago many of them had no idea they were about to become parliamentarians. We’re also the only party to come through the 2003-2007 session without any scandals, which may or may not help us!

What’s more, as many of our European colleagues have been previously, we’re on the brink of a possible role in government. Over the last month the Daily Mail has been alarming its readers with polls that show
the Greens getting up to 11 seats.

I have a love-hate relationship with elections. There’s an intense camaraderie within the team, and even though the public don’t appear to have picked it up yet, it’s certainly very exciting for an insider.
It's also a particular professional delight when you see a speech you’ve helped write appear as the Press Association’s quote of the day.

I’ve had three so far, ahead of my two Green media colleagues, as it happens.

However, modern electioneering could have been designed to cause sleep deprivation. The day starts early with radio news - Good Morning Scotland unless we know we’re on Today - followed by the review of the
cuttings and into the day’s action.

It’s a long run through to Newsnight Scotland, which starts at 11am. The opt-out from network Newsnight was a bodged solution, flawed because Scots always miss the last item from London, but their team is
the cream of the crop of Scottish BBC, and they have the best analysis and inside tips. The day’s not even over when they finish at 11.30, though, because some of the papers come online early, before 1am.

All of which means that the long section in the middle, the actual work, is usually done in that curious mix of energy and exhaustion. And if the Mail’s right, it’s not even going to be over on election night. Greens in government in the UK? You heard it here first.

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Could Labour lose the Oldham by-election?

Sources warn defeat is not unthinkable but the party's ground campaign believe they will hold on. 

As shadow cabinet members argue in public over Labour's position on Syria and John McDonnell defends his Mao moment, it has been easy to forget that the party next week faces its first election test since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. On paper, Oldham West and Royton should be a straightforward win. Michael Meacher, whose death last month triggered the by-election, held the seat with a majority of 14,738 just seven months ago. The party opted for an early pre-Christmas poll, giving second-placed Ukip less time to gain momentum, and selected the respected Oldham council leader Jim McMahon as its candidate. 

But in recent weeks Labour sources have become ever more anxious. Shadow cabinet members returning from campaigning report that Corbyn has gone down "very badly" with voters, with his original comments on shoot-to-kill particularly toxic. Most MPs expect the party's majority to lie within the 1,000-2,000 range. But one insider told me that the party's majority would likely fall into the hundreds ("I'd be thrilled with 2,000") and warned that defeat was far from unthinkable. The fear is that low turnout and defections to Ukip could allow the Farageists to sneak a win. MPs are further troubled by the likelihood that the contest will take place on the same day as the Syria vote (Thursday), which will badly divide Labour. 

The party's ground campaign, however, "aren't in panic mode", I'm told, with data showing them on course to hold the seat with a sharply reduced majority. As Tim noted in his recent report from the seat, unlike Heywood and Middleton, where Ukip finished just 617 votes behind Labour in a 2014 by-election, Oldham has a significant Asian population (accounting for 26.5 per cent of the total), which is largely hostile to Ukip and likely to remain loyal to Labour. 

Expectations are now so low that a win alone will be celebrated. But expect Corbyn's opponents to point out that working class Ukip voters were among the groups the Labour leader was supposed to attract. They are likely to credit McMahon with the victory and argue that the party held the seat in spite of Corbyn, rather than because of him. Ukip have sought to turn the contest into a referendum on the Labour leader's patriotism but McMahon replied: "My grandfather served in the army, my father and my partner’s fathers were in the Territorial Army. I raised money to restore my local cenotaph. On 18 December I will be going with pride to London to collect my OBE from the Queen and bring it back to Oldham as a local boy done good. If they want to pick a fight on patriotism, bring it on."  "If we had any other candidate we'd have been in enormous trouble," one shadow minister concluded. 

Of Corbyn, who cancelled a visit to the seat today, one source said: "I don't think Jeremy himself spends any time thinking about it, he doesn't think that electoral outcomes at this stage touch him somehow."  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.